Fish Care and Handling

Hi folks, we have been seeing an increase in poor fish care recently so instead of berating people we feel that maybe some education would be a better approach as we have members from all kinds of backgrounds and levels of experience. We don’t want to spoil anyone's fun, we just want to ensure that our stocks are cared for so they can continue to be enjoyed in future.

Standard Equipment:

These are items of fish care equipment that we insist on anglers using our lakes carry to ensure the ability to deal with fish safely and efficiently.

Barbless hooks - Studies have shown that for a variety of reasons such as reduced handling time and easier extraction of deep set hooks, barbless hooks improve successful release rates within fisheries. As such we insist on their use on our lakes.

30 inch net - A large net is essential for the safe handling of large fish, they provide proper space and support as well as the ability to safely retain a fish in the margin for short durations while other equipment and cameras are readied. We do not insist that you use full sized nets for dealing with smaller fish because that would be impractical but if you hook a biggun you need to be ready to deal with it properly. Just remember that anything over 6oz should be netted and not swung in, even if the line can take it the fish’s lip might not be as resilient.

Landing mat - A padded landing mat provides a safe barrier between the rough surfaces found on or around a fishing peg and a fish's sensitive skin. Care should be taken on hot days to ensure that the mat is wetted down before a fish is placed upon it. If you’ve ever sat down on a leather car seat in shorts after it’s been baking in the sun I’m sure you can appreciate why this is important.

Carp care treatments - Liquid antibacterial solutions and treatments for use on hook holds, lifted scales, abrasion marks and other wounds or sores help ensure the speedy recovery of our stock and reduce the chance of subsequent infections taking hold. By using these treatments we can help fish recover from wounds that may not have even been a result of us catching them and make sure they live a long and healthy life.

Disgorger - A device necessary for removing a deep set hook from fish in the safest manner possible. We’ve all had a small perch slurp down a bunch of maggots with such vigour that it’s 2 inches down the throat before you’re even had a chance to react to the first dip of the float but with this handy tool on hand you’ve got the best chance of getting your hook back and sending the little sergeant on his way. I should note that this possibility is not exclusive to small fish and specimen anglers should also be equipped properly and proficient in the use of such tools.

Keepnets: Keep nets should have a top ring of no less than 12 inches by 12 inches and be at least 6ft in length to provide adequate space to retain fish but we would prefer larger diameter nets to be used if possible. No fish over 3lb should be placed in a keepnet at any time, they should be weighed and immediately released. We also advise that while keepnets are a necessity for matches they probably shouldn’t be used otherwise because of the additional stress they place on the fish particularly during the summer months when oxygen levels are low and environmental stress factors are high.

Fish Handling

It should go without saying but we are a catch and release fishery and as such all care must be taken to return a fish to the water alive and in the best condition possible. To do this we need to bear in mind that once a fish is removed from the water the clock is ticking, the longer we keep them out and the less careful we are the worse their chances of living to fight another day. They can’t breathe effectively out of water because the gill structures are no longer held open by the passage of water over them, their body weight is no longer being suspended by the water so they are slowly being crushed by their own mass and their protective mucus layer is drying out which leaves them open to infections and parasites upon return.

The first step towards good fish care is being prepared. Make sure you know where all your important bits and pieces are and that they’re in serviceable condition. Your net should be assembled and within reach, your mat should be in a suitable position with your tools and accessories within easy reach but most importantly you should have a plan in mind for what you’re going to do when the time comes so you’re not wasting valuable time running around like a headless chicken trying to find something. We really must minimise the time we keep them out of the water, a pretty photo is not a worthy reason for harming a fish so make sure you’re ready to go before you take them out of the safety of the water. Under 2 mins from lifting the net to return with photos and weighing in between is easily achievable and don’t be afraid to return the fish to the water for a rest in the sling/net halfway through if you run into difficulties. Another thing we see all too regularly is people standing for photos with fish and this is incredibly dangerous, it only takes an unexpected bit of thrashing and that prized catch is a corpse. To nobody's surprise, fish aren’t built to be out of the water let alone survive a drop from 3ft in the air onto an unforgiving ground. Don’t take the risk, either kneel down for a photo where you can properly control the fish or settle for a mat shot. These measures don’t only apply to carp, if it requires removing from the net or placing down to deal with then it must be done on a mat, no excuses and no exceptions.

We can probably all agree that a snotty bream, a soap bar of a tench or a greased rope of an eel isn’t the easiest or most pleasant thing to hold but what we mustn’t do under any circumstances is intentionally remove the slime by holding/wiping them with a cloth or allowing them to dry out. The snot/slime is a defensive barrier between the fish and all sorts of microscopic nasties and parasites living within the water and by removing it you put the fish at serious risk of disease or even death. We must try to minimise handling and ensure we keep the fish as wet as possible while on the bank.

On the subject of parasites and microscopic nasties, if you see anything on a fish that you find concerning or unusual please feel free to take a couple of pictures and message me with the details. Most of the time it’ll just be a common issue but occasionally something unusual crops up and it’s better we know sooner rather than later.

A short video on Fish Care and Handling

With all of that out of the way we hope you are enjoying our lakes and continue to do so for many years to come.

Tight lines